NAC as a supplement has many uses and can help people with a diverse set of issues, including mood disorders, brain issues, lung problems, sleep disorders, infections, and in states of oxidative stress. It can even help protect you from the flu. Here we list 28 health benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine as well as the possible side effects of taking it.
- NAC Snapshot
- Health Benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine
- 1) NAC Helps Protect Against Liver Damage
- 2) NAC Fights Against Cellular Oxidative Damage
- 3) NAC Helps Prevent and Treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- 4) NAC Helps Treat Chronic Bronchitis
- 5) NAC May Help Treat HIV
- 6) NAC Can Reduce Pain and Inflammation
- 7) NAC May Help Prevent Cancer
- 8) NAC Can Reduce Insulin Resistance
- 9) NAC Can Protect From the Flu
- 10) NAC Can Help Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- 11) NAC Can Help Negate the Effects 0f Schizophrenia
- 12) NAC Can Prevent Addictive Behaviors
- 13) NAC Can Prevent Depression and Bipolar Disorder
- 14) NAC Can Prevent Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- 15) NAC Improves Intestinal Barrier Function
- 16) NAC Enhances Bone Regeneration
- 17) NAC Can be a Treatment for Sleep Disorders
- 18) NAC can be Used as Treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- 19) NAC May Possibly Help ALS
- 20) NAC May Increase Survival Rate in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure
- 21) NAC Could Increase Survival Rates in Patients Suffering From Heart Attacks
- 22) NAC Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
- 23) NAC May Help in Recovering From Brain Injury
- 24) NAC May Decrease Risk of Kidney Disease
- 25) NAC Improves Fertility
- NAC Side Effects & Cautions
- NAC Dosage
- Buy NAC
- Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
N-Acetyl Cysteine, also known as NAC, is an altered version of Cysteine. Cysteine is an amino acid containing sulfur.
The removal of these reactive species is important because they will cause cellular and tissue damage if they are allowed to remain in cells. NAC has also been found to reduce inflammation in tissues [R].
NAC not only can be ingested into the body orally but also through inhalation. As seen below, the supplement can be used for many different purposes.
- Good for reducing glutamate toxicity
- Good for OCD and Bipolar
- Helps prevent the flu
- Great antioxidant
- Great biofilm disruptor
- Increases the master antioxidant – Glutathione
- Improves Fertility
- Good for a diverse array of conditions
- Can negate some of the benefits of exercise
- Doesn’t taste good and can cause a bit of nausea or stomach upset
- May negate cancer-killing properties of chemotherapy
Health Benefits of N-Acetyl Cysteine
1) NAC Helps Protect Against Liver Damage
Many commonly used painkiller medications such as Tylenol and Vicodin contain a substance called Acetaminophen [R].
If taken in high quantities, Acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver and can cause liver failure. N-Acetyl Cysteine is commonly used to treat liver failure due to Acetaminophen and greatly increases the patient’s chances of survival.
NAC has also been shown to effectively treat liver failure caused by other factors such as excessive alcohol consumption or environmental pollutants [R].
2) NAC Fights Against Cellular Oxidative Damage
Oxygen radicals will cause oxidative damage that is detrimental to cells and their DNA [R].
By replenishing Glutathione where it is needed in the body, NAC helps fight against oxygen radicals and in turn, prevents cellular damage. This can be especially helpful if cells have been exposed to lead [R].
3) NAC Helps Prevent and Treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is a lung disease caused by long-term oxidative damage to important lung tissues [R]. This damage results in inflammation of the lung tissue. The inflammation causes airways to become smaller leading to shortness of breath and cough.
The main form of treatment of COPD involves Oxygen Therapy. This involves giving the patient extra oxygen so that normal Oxygen levels can be obtained from the blood [R].
However, this extra oxygen also counterproductively increases the production of toxic oxygen radicals [R]. The introduction of NAC will decrease the concentration of these radicals and will help improve treatment efficiency.
4) NAC Helps Treat Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic Bronchitis is caused by the inflammation of the bronchial tubes [R]. This inflammation is often caused by oxidation damage. Chronic bronchitis causes a cough and mucus buildup in the lungs.
NAC will reduce symptoms in patients with chronic bronchitis by acting to reduce radicals in the bronchial tubes [R].
5) NAC May Help Treat HIV
HIV is a disease that causes the failure of the bodies’ immune response. High levels of NAC in the body can help prevent the reproduction of one strain of HIV, HIV-1 [R]. This suggests that cells with high NAC levels may be able to resist HIV infection.
NAC may be a good supplement to take for subjects who are HIV+ and are taking other medications.
6) NAC Can Reduce Pain and Inflammation
Along with reducing oxidative damage in tissues, NAC can work to decrease inflammation in tissues. NAC decreases the amount of many different inflammatory molecules present in the body [R].
Reduction of inflammation can relieve symptoms of different diseases or reduce the risk of developing different diseases. NAC also reduces inflammation after vigorous exercise, which allows for people to perform these exercises without too much soreness.
NAC reduces neuropathic pain by suppressing matrix metalloproteinases [R].
7) NAC May Help Prevent Cancer
NAC has been shown to help prevent multiple forms of cancer through a few different mechanisms.
It has also been discovered that NAC decreases the amount of cancer signaling molecules in the body, which in turn decreases the cancers ability to grow and spread [R].
Ionizing radiation is often used to kill cancer cells. However, this radiation can often lead to more cancers developing in healthy cells through DNA damage [R].
NAC protects healthy cells from damage while allowing for cell death in cancer cells. This reduces the risk of developing other cancers while ionizing radiation is used.
However, some studies show that NAC doesn’t go well with some cancer therapies. Speak to your doctor before taking NAC if you’re taking chemotherapy.
8) NAC Can Reduce Insulin Resistance
NAC has been shown to decrease insulin resistance in obese subjects.
High blood sugar and obesity can cause inflammation in fat tissue. This inflammation begins a signaling pathway that ultimately leads to the destruction of insulin receptors [R].
The destruction leads to diabetes 2 in obese subjects. NAC has been shown to reduce inflammation in fat cells. This means that fewer insulin receptors are destroyed and cells become more sensitive to insulin [R]. This reduces the risk of developing diabetes 2.
9) NAC Can Protect From the Flu
NAC has been shown to reduce symptoms of flu as well as protect from the flu. NAC decreases the body’s inflammatory response when the flu develops in a subject. This reduces symptoms experienced by that subject.
NAC also reduces the ability of the flu virus to replicate in cells [R]. Without the ability to replicate quickly, the virus is often fought off before it develops.
One study showed that older adults taking NAC only developed the flu 25% of the time while a population of the same age not taking NAC developed the flu 79% of the time.
10) NAC Can Help Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder that slows down subjects’ learning and memory abilities.
Studies have shown that NAC may work to slow or negate the loss of cognitive ability in mouse models of Alzheimer’s [R].
Patients with Parkinson’s disease who supplement with NAC experience notable improvements in dopamine function and symptoms.
11) NAC Can Help Negate the Effects 0f Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is characterized by failure to understand reality and abnormal social behaviors.
NAC can work to possibly minimize negative effects of schizophrenia [R].
A primate-specific gene locus G72 is linked to the development of these diseases by enlarging synapses in the brain.
When mice were treated with NAC, their synapses were normalized, indicating that NAC can play a part in helping with mental illnesses [R].
12) NAC Can Prevent Addictive Behaviors
Addictive behaviors include binge eating, drug addictions, and other compulsive behaviors. NAC can reduce or eliminate these behaviors in rodent models [R].
A systematic review found that NAC helps people with addictions, especially cocaine and cannabis. Behaviors such as hair pulling or nail biting can also be prevented using NAC [R].
The effects were mediated by normalizing the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate [R].
13) NAC Can Prevent Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Depression and bipolar disorder are severe conditions that are becoming more prevalent in our world today.
Symptoms caused by these disorders can be significantly improved by taking NAC. NAC can also help in improving people’s ability to function while experiencing these symptoms [R].
14) NAC Can Prevent Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD causes social anxiety and compulsive behaviors. NAC can help with treatment in severe cases of OCD [R].
15) NAC Improves Intestinal Barrier Function
Treatment with NAC can help protect the intestines in cases where bacterial growth takes hold in rats. NAC will also defend against oxidative injury, thereby improving barrier function [R].
16) NAC Enhances Bone Regeneration
NAC helps with enhancing bone growth and regeneration. It activates osteoblastic differentiation by interacting with other bone markers such as collagen and osteopontin [R].
NAC quickens mineralization and thus increases the rate of bone growth [R].
17) NAC Can be a Treatment for Sleep Disorders
NAC could help treat patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder where a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep.
Patients who took daily doses of NAC had improved sleep efficiency and snored less than those who took a placebo (RCT).
Oral NAC administration appears to be a potential treatment for sleep apnea [R].
18) NAC can be Used as Treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal disease that causes problems with periods and difficulties getting pregnant.
Clomiphene citrate (CC), a drug that is used to treat the disease, only seems to work in 60-85% of women.
NAC can possibly be used as an alternative treatment for the disease [R].
19) NAC May Possibly Help ALS
ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a nervous system disease that causes loss of voluntary muscle use. The disease is not curable.
NAC may possibly help ALS patients. In cell cultures, NAC prevents the degeneration of neuron cells [R].
20) NAC May Increase Survival Rate in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure
Chronic heart failure (CHF) causes fatigue and exercise intolerance in muscles.
NAC has been shown to improve these symptoms by decreasing inflammation and oxidative damage in the muscles [R]. This, in turn, increases the survival rate of patients with CHF.
21) NAC Could Increase Survival Rates in Patients Suffering From Heart Attacks
Patients suffering from heart attacks have less adverse cardiac events following the attack if given NAC.
Patients given NAC have also on average been able to leave the hospital earlier due to a quick and speedy recovery [R].
22) NAC Reduces Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is often caused by oxidative damage to heart tissue [R]. This can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and other severe consequences.
NAC can reduce this oxidative damage and help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in subjects [R].
23) NAC May Help in Recovering From Brain Injury
Brain injuries can be caused by drug overdoses, cerebral ischemia (not enough blood flow to the brain), brain trauma, or other reasons.
Brain injuries can cause loss of cognitive function and memory. NAC can act to help recover from these incidences and can help subjects regain their memory and cognition [R].
24) NAC May Decrease Risk of Kidney Disease
Oxidative stress in the kidneys can cause kidney disease and kidney failure. NAC can act as a protector against oxidative stress in the kidney and in this way prevent kidney failure (rats) [R].
25) NAC Improves Fertility
Almost 15% of all couples trying to conceive are affected by infertility, and in almost half of these cases, male infertility is the sole or a contributing factor [R].
NAC in some, but not all, studies improves sperm quality [R].
NAC Side Effects & Cautions
NAC seems to be a safe substance with very few known long-term side effects.
The supplement can also cause drowsiness, mouth swelling, or clamminess if inhaled.
NAC does have a disagreeable smell that makes it hard to take in. NAC should be taken with food, at any time, but preferably in the morning.
NAC can irritate the stomach lining if taken on an empty stomach.
NAC has anticoagulant and platelet-inhibiting properties [R], so precaution should be taken in the following situations:
- Bleeding disorders
- Surgery – as a result of increased risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop taking N-acetyl cysteine at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
- Blood-thinning medication – if you are already taking blood thinners, consult with your doctor.
N-acetyl cysteine is similar to cysteine found in food, so low dosages of the supplement (500mg) are likely safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, there is not enough reliable information to be sure that NAC is safe.
NAC (12 mg/kg/day) increased age-dependent blood-brain barrier breakdown in rats with high blood pressure and that are prone to strokes. It also increased the number of amyloid beta plaques in the cortex (an area of the brain) but did not change the amyloid deposits in the other parts of the brain studied (basal ganglia, hippocampus, thalamus, and corpus callosum) [R].
In a similar study, rats (with high blood pressure and that are prone to strokes) given NAC (12 mg/kg/day) had more microbleeds and blood vessels with blood-brain-barrier-disturbances than the control group. However, the treatment also reduced the number of blood clots and the occurrence of tissue death from lack of blood [R].
A maximum dose of NAC has yet to be determined. However, taking between 800mg-1,800mg of NAC is usually recommended if you have a condition.
For general health purposes, 600mg a day is sufficient.
Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick
At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on PubMed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.
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- Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
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- SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics
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